^ cities = commerce, and our nation is a commercial city writ large. As early as the 11th and 12th Centuries, as commerce revived in Western Europe, business and freedom, opportunity for all and justice, and the welcoming of immigrants have realized the hopes and ideals of all manner of people. It is our heritage as a nation and should be the Democrats’ message in 2020.
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My personal view is that the 2020 Democratic nominee for President can be just about anybody, and advocate just about any agenda, and win by a landslide. Given Mr. Trump’s stew of awfulness — the economic idiocies, his hatred for everybody who isn’t of white skin color, his corruption, his gratuitous cruelties, his nearly treasonous submission to Russian dominance, his enemies lists, his mendacity — the only way he could possibly be re-elected would be to have two major candidates facing him. He does command about 33 percent of voters. Add a couple of million votes to that and yup, he’s….B-A-ACK !
Yet if almost any Democrat, running on almost any platform, is almost sure to defeat the disaster in DC, that doesn’t mean the vast majority of America’s voters should just say “whatever.” It won’t help the nation much if the Democrats of 2020 are a party purely or chiefly of vengeance. Let Mr. Trump meet his legal and moral fate, but rescue the nation from echoes of it. By which I mean that the 2020 Democrats should embrace the everything that is America at its most promising, not this or that bones to pick.
Now to the question at hand : what should the 2020 Democrats stand for ?
David Brooks calls the current, media-favorite Democratic trend as “racial justice socialism.” The phrase recalls the 1984 and 1988 candidacies of Jesse Jackson, which failed despite their eloquence. It certainly has captured the news cycle via various victories by “racial justice socialists” in this cycle’s Democratic primaries. Like Brooks, I’m not inspired by this faction’s message. An American President should rise above any single special plea, even one as pressing as justice and civil rights for all. If the next President is to move the entire nation toward hope and ambition, and away from fear and division, he or she must find a way to seek justice and civil rights for all within a much broader agenda of reform in which a clear majority sees itself moving on up : because no matter how crucial civil rights and justice are for those who are denied them, the majority of voters has other aspirations and difficulties at hand; and a successful coalition includes a minority AND a majority. Ronald Reagan was able to do that, for Republicans; Barack Obama almost did that for Democrats.
I say ‘almost” because Obama never put into words what was his actual message. He sounded the social justice t.heme in Reaganite terms, yes, and spoke it brilliantly. Yet his actual message was business prosperity — regulated business prosperity, to be sure, but prosperity in a context of civil rights and “inclusiveness.” This was not only Obama’s actual agenda. It was his donors too. Obama brought to his side business leaders from all corners of the nation; and his term saw what I call “business progressivism” successfully demand several recalcitrant States to enact civil rights protections for LGBT people, women, even for immigrants.
This was a wise policy to embrace. Who has the money, and the jobs, commands in a nation as commercial as ours : and “business progressivism” — business with a social conscience if you will — has at many times in our history moved the nation morally and justly forward. This was true in Alexander Hamilton’s day — the Constitution was a commercial contract with a social justice partner — and it was true of Abolition’s merchant aristocracy. It has taken almost permanent hold since the Presidency of “Ike” in the 1950s.
Business progressivism has stood for freedom, the rule of law, commerce and “rising up” ever since the recovery of commerce during the 11th Century. The pactism of medieval merchants precedented our own Constitution, its rights and its reciprocities. As we are pre-eminently a commercial nation, peopled by those who immigrated here to pursue enterprise and a better life, business with a social conscience is knitted indelibly into our nation’s quilt. We should recall that 11th Century merchants came from all kinds of social classes : serfs, slaves, knights, loners. The Constitutions of many medieval cities expressly called upon people of every condition to come into them from near or far. (that of the Catalan city of Cardona, from year 1080, is quoted in Robert Hughes’s Barcelona. Which city by the year 1180 had a written governmental pact, the first such.) They read almost exactly like the famed Emma Lazarus poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. How could it be otherwise ? Commerce has no borders — the more people who partake of it, the more customers — and money has no pedigree. Whatever you/ look like, whoever you sleep with, whatever language you speak or religion you profess, your wallet has the same buying power.
The message of business progressivism contradicts Mr Trump at almost every turn. It opposes his hatred of immigrants. It abolishes his corruption and lies. It gives the lie to his trade wars. It is skeptical of his love affairs with dictators. It transcends religious theories and skin color division. No message more overrides that of Mr. Trump than business progressive. It is a winning agenda.
To sum up : as money talks, those who have it, or earn it, command tremendous authority in the halls of decision. In my mind, the justice that 2020 Democrats should stand for is commercial justice — and all the social inclusion and expeimentalism that that arrangement encompasses.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere